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Stranger Danger: Injunction permitted against persons unknown

In the recent decision of Vastint Leeds BV (a company incorporated under the laws of the Netherlands) v Persons Unknown, the High Court in England has granted a final quia timet (since he fears) injunction against persons unknown preventing such individuals from entering or remaining on portions of land within the former Tetley brewery site in Leeds (the Site).

Vastint made the application months before the Site was to be demolished. Much of the Site was unoccupied and security measures (fences, security patrols and inspections) had been put in place to keep away trespassers. None of the defendants attended the hearing and the High Court held:

  1. It was not possible to identify the possible defendants as their identity was framed on their future actions. Until an act infringing the order was committed, no-one was a party to the claim. It has been possible to make such a claim where the identity was the defendants was unknown under the CPR.
  2. Evidence showed that the Site was likely to be a target for illegal raves and potentially a target for travellers. Unless the unknown defendants were restrained, trespassing was likely to happen. The Court didn’t accept that fly tipping was likely to be an issue.
  3. Trespassers, staff and contractors faced health and safety risks by being on the Site. Vastint could end up incurring significant costs if trespassers had to be removed. Whilst theoretically recoverable, the reality was that these costs were unlikely to be recovered from such individuals.

The Court granted the injunction, but limited it to the duration that the Site perimeter was in place and confirmed that if committal proceedings were commenced then the breaching party would need to be personally served with the relevant documentation. The order was framed to minimise the risk that police officers and those working on Site would not be in breach if they lawfully entered the Site.

This is the latest decision that pushes the injunction jurisdiction into novel areas as courts have sought to use its flexibility to fit modern commercial needs. 

Considering unknown persons

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